Top 10 Must ‘Read’ Eco-Fiction and Sustainability Audiobooks

Lucy Cooper
on 16 July 2023

When it comes to thinking about the climate, it’s easy to ping-pong between hope and despair. One thing that can help is to focus on sustainability and learn practical solutions you can take in your everyday life to help make a difference.

Stories of eco-fiction and sustainability are those of pioneering thinking, radical shifts, and action. They introduce role models and challenge us to imagine the future we want, whilst demonstrating a kind of world that could exist if change does not happen. They also empower us, providing concrete steps we can take to get started. 

Even for people who love books, finding the opportunity to read can be a challenge. Many now rely on audiobooks, a convenient alternative to old-fashioned reading. You can listen to the latest bestseller while commuting or cleaning up the house.

Read on below for our top recommendations of eco-fiction, and sustainability audiobooks.

Eco-Fiction Must ‘Reads’

What is eco-fiction? Eco fiction has environmental themes, narratives surrounding human impact on the climate crisis, the natural world, environmental activism, animal and human rights issues, and more. Some eco-fiction is futuristic, and more often than not it is dystopic because of the dire state of the climate emergency that faces us. But eco-fiction can also be an observation about the natural world today, or a reflection on a past climate event.

Many readers are seeking fiction that addresses environmental issues but explores a successful paradigm shift: fiction that accurately addresses our current issues with intelligence and hope. The power of envisioning a certain future is that the vision enables one to see it as possible.

Read on here to see our top recommendations for thought-provoking and interesting eco-fiction novels.

 

Must 'read' eco-fiction audiobooks
Must ‘Read’ Eco-Fiction Audiobooks

A River Divided by Professor George Paxinos

Known as the definitive eco-fiction novel for the 21st century, A River Divided explores one of our most fundamental social questions around who wins in the battle of nature vs nurture, as it takes the reader on a mysterious journey across the world to the Amazon Rainforest.

Set across four continents, A River Divided is the thrilling first novel by world-famous neuroscientist Professor George Paxinos, who uses his vast knowledge to examine the limits of science and the brain. A cerebral cartographer, Professor Paxinos has identified and named more brain areas than anyone in history. The Greek-Australian neuroscientist is so concerned about the future that he has turned to fiction in his latest book, A River Divided, inviting a recalibration of religion, science, and culture. He poses the searing question of our time – can humans and nature co-exist in harmony?

Twins raised apart, with an unknown genetic inheritance, become beacons for the battle to save the environment. Each stands on an opposing side of the fight over the last great rainforest – The Amazon, where they will meet for only a moment across a river divided. This is a story about finding your identity, and how love, faith, forgiveness, and freedom can changes lives and set a new course for humanity. It is a book that charters this critical time and the relevant question: who wins in the battle of nature versus nurture?

Professor George Paxinos, author of A River Divided
Professor George Paxinos, author of A River Divided

To read more about Professor Paxinos’ fight for a more sustainable world, read here.

Audiobook available here.

The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck

Shocking and controversial when it was first published, The Grapes of Wrath is Steinbeck’s Pultizer Prize-winning epic of the Joad family, forced to travel west from Dust Bowl era Oklahoma in search of the promised land of California. Their story is one of false hopes, thwarted desires, and powerlessness, yet out of their struggle, Steinbeck created a drama that is both intensely human and majestic in its scale and moral vision. The mother of all eco-fictions, a book that chronicles a man-made climate disaster before we knew what to call it. The dispossessed, hungry, and homeless migrate through baking dust in search of better lives, only to be turned back by callously protectionist locals. Sound familiar? A heartbreaking testament to the fact that eco-fiction need not be speculative.

Audiobook available here.

The Drowned World by J.G. Ballard

Published in 1962, The Drowned World has been spoken of as one of the pioneering works of climate fiction. By 2145, global warming has made slush of the ice caps (we knew this would happen), the seas have risen, and tropical swamps and jungles now dominate most of the Earth’s surface. A group of surveyors are sent from Greenland to soggy, flooded London to determine whether the southern world can someday be reclaimed. Writing during the era society believed most fervently that the world was ours to shape, author Ballard warned the world that it wasn’t.

Audiobook available here.

The Overstory by Richard Powers

Winner of the 2019 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction, this eco-fiction novel is more the prequel to the apocalypse than the big day itself. Stuffed with more tree-related research than you can carry, author Powers very effectively decentralizes humans from his story, demonstrating how wanton deforestation and the reckless disregard for the complexity of natural systems have landed modern society in the mess we’re currently in. If you don’t come away from this novel with a deeper appreciation for trees, then you’re probably the CEO of a leading forestry company.

Audiobook available here.

Greenwood by Michael Christie

It’s 2034 and Jake Greenwood is a storyteller and a liar, an overqualified tour guide babysitting ultra-rich vacationers in one of the world’s last remaining forests. It’s 2008 and Liam Greenwood is a carpenter, fallen from a ladder and sprawled on his broken back, calling out from the concrete floor of an empty mansion. It’s 1974 and Willow Greenwood is out of jail, free after being locked up for one of her endless series of environmental protests: attempts at atonement for the sins of her father’s once vast and violent timber empire. It’s 1934 and Everett Greenwood is alone, as usual, in his maple syrup camp squat when he hears the cries of an abandoned infant and gets tangled up in the web of a crime that will cling to his family for decades.

Throughout the novel, there are trees: thrumming a steady, silent pulse, working as a guiding metaphor for withering, weathering, and survival. A shining, intricate clockwork of a novel, Greenwood is a rain-soaked and sun-dappled story of the bonds and breaking points of money and love, wood and blood, and the hopeful, impossible task of growing toward the light.

Audiobook available here.

Sustainability Must ‘Reads’

Good things might not last forever, but it’s in everyone’s interests that planet earth does. With concerns about our current climate emergency mounting, sustainability is an ideal we must find ways to attain, one little step at a time. Solutions exist: now they need to be put into practice. Knowledge is power.

Chances are you’re already dabbling in sustainability by using reusable products and making thoughtful swaps to better our planet. Now it’s time to take things up a notch by giving your reading list some serious cred with our favourite books on sustainability.

Must 'Read' Sustainability Audiobooks
Must ‘Read’ Sustainability Audiobooks

A Life On Our Planet: My Witness Statement and a Vision for the Future by Sir David Attenborough

At 94 years old, David Attenborough has seen some of the enormous changes on our planet happen first-hand. In this sincere and sobering ecological memoir, Attenborough reflects on how we allowed things to get this bad and reminds readers of the interconnectedness of the natural and human world. But even after witnessing the devastation of the planet’s wild places, the author believes that the human race has the ability to change its current trajectory. We can only hope that his wisdom, also shared in a Netflix documentary by the same title, will touch many hearts and inspire them to take action.

Sir David Attenborough, author of A Life on Our Planet
Sir David Attenborough, author of A Life on Our Planet

Audiobook available here.

Cradle to Cradle: Remaking the Way We Make Things by William McDonough and Michael Braungart

What if instead of working to limit waste as much as possible, we could revise our systems of production so that waste doesn’t happen in the first place? That’s the question posed by this seminal environmental work, written by a chemist and an architect sharing a passion for sustainable living. Drawing ecological principles from nature, the two authors question our current methods of production and show how improved design could revolutionize the way we make things, by making them more durable. This thought-provoking, idealistic sustainability, nonfiction book thinks outside the box and leaves the reader hopeful for change.

Audiobook available here.

Wilding: The Return of Nature to a British Farm by Isabella Tree

This fascinating case study of re-wilding farmland offers a spark of hope for the planet’s future. Isabella Tree and her husband run a farm in West Sussex, UK, and this book tells the story of their pioneering efforts to re-wild their land after intensive farming practices left it economically unsustainable. Allowing nature to take over, the couple witnessed something incredible happen. In less than a decade, their farm was blossoming with life, and is now a space that hosts diverse wildlife: ponies, butterflies, birds, you name it. Simultaneously practical and inspirational, Wilding highlights an often forgotten fact: that sometimes the best thing you can do is step back and allow nature to take the lead.

Audiobook available here.

Climate Justice: A Man-Made Problem With a Feminist Solution by Mary Robinson

Former President of Ireland Mary Robinson turns her focus to the female grassroot activists fighting different manifestations of climate change in this urgent call to arms. Wondering what the future will hold for the world her grandchildren live in, Robinson speaks to everyday women doing their bit when their communities are badly affected by global warming. From Uganda to Mississippi to Malawi and Mongolia, the fierce optimism Robinson encounters in these women becomes a source of hope. At the same time, Climate Justice is a bitter reminder of the fact that vulnerable communities will be the first to bear the brunt of rising water levels and a changing climate.

Audiobook available here.

Diary of a Young Naturalist by Dara McAnulty

15-year-old Dara McAnulty from Northern Ireland made headlines in 2020 when he won the Wainwright Prize for Nature Writing with this lyrical, thoughtful, and introspective coming-of-age memoir and meditation on the biosphere. McAnulty shares how nature became his “life-support system” after he was bullied for his autism/Asperger’s at school. Written with wisdom and sensitivity, this wonderful book will touch your heart with its observations of wildlife and the changing of the seasons. After you turn the last page, you’ll want to step outside and simply breathe among the trees.

Audiobook available here.

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